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High-tech has Net result: less TV

You knew this time would come. The results are in, and the Internet is doing a number on the time we spend vegetating in front of the TV.

According to the Stanford Institute for the Quantitative Study of Society (niche enough for ya?), which is busy studying the social implications of Internet use, people are spending more hours online and fewer hours channel surfing.

Obviously I'm not part of the trend, because when a major news story breaks, I always head to the myriad of news channels available before I check out any news Web site. Staring into a computer screen to watch one of my favorite shows? Forget it.

But as Portland TV stations like to remind us, hits on their Web sites increase practically every month. This while there is a steady decline in the percentage of people watching local TV newscasts. For example, last Wednesday, the top-rated 6:30 p.m. newscast in Portland Ñ KATU (2) Ñ registered a paltry 14 percent share of the viewing audience, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Just a few years ago, such a number would have ranked dead last in the news ratings race and led news directors to ponder changing anchor hair colors or making the 'Breaking News' graphic even more jumbo-sized.

The Stanford research shows that the average Internet user in this country spends three hours a day at a computer keyboard and watches TV fewer than two hours. The study shows that feasting on the Internet also diminishes the time people spend with friends and cuts down on sleep.

What's the next step in this technosocial upheaval? Well, it's already here, and it's proving to be one of the most vexing problems that U.S. media companies must contend with: downloading and file swapping of TV shows.

It could make the Napster phenomenon and what's still tormenting the music industry look like a walk in the park.

That's why the broadcast industry's top trade publication, Broadcast and Cable, featured a cover story on the topic last week focusing on 'SpongeBob SquarePants.' It seems the Nickelodeon kids' hit is theNo. 1 pirated show in the country, followed by NBC's 'Will and Grace' (go figure) and Fox's 'The O.C.'

Thanks to a larger information 'pipe' via broadband and technological advances in file-sharing software, getting TV shows by way of the Internet is easier than ever.

Then there's TiVo, the digital video recording company, which is rolling out software (TiVoToGo) that will allow subscribers to transfer recorded shows from their TV to their laptop. Or even burn them onto a DVD.

So along with fewer hours with your TV, your friends and your pillow, get ready for the merger of all mergers Ñ your TV and computer becoming one and the same. Yeah, it's all happening too fast for me, too.

And now this É

This week begins the post-Craig Walker era now that Bruce Murdock has taken over the morning show at KKCW (103.3 FM). With the longtime Portland radio host in retirement, Clear Channel Portland has established a $5,000-per-year scholarship in Walker's name for future broadcasters at Oregon State University. É Oldies KKSN (97.1 FM) has hired Tom Parker to replace Jim Donovan as morning host. Parker, who spent 12 years as the afternoon drive guy at K103, was passed over as Walker's replacement. É KGW (8)'s one-night telethon last week for the tsunami victims netted $560,000. Now there's a movement afoot for all of Portland media to stage a super one-day telethon.

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